West Nile Virus Infections Increase in Georgia

September 1, 2017

ATLANTA – The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) has confirmed nearly 20 human cases of West Nile virus (WNV) so far this year, including at least three deaths. In 2016, there were seven human cases of WNV and no confirmed deaths related to WNV. Georgians are urged to protect themselves from mosquito bites, especially when they are outside this Labor Day weekend.

“Georgians can reduce the number of mosquitoes around their homes and yards by getting rid of standing water,” said Chris Rustin, Ph.D., DPH director of Environmental Health. “Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes that may be infected with West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases.”

Tip ‘n Toss all containers that can collect water - flowerpots, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths - anything that holds water and gives mosquitoes a place to thrive. Mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus look for stagnant water to lay eggs in, so be sure gutters and eaves are clear of leaves and debris.

The most effective way to protect against WNV infection and all mosquito-borne diseases, including Zika, is to prevent mosquito bites. Observe the “Five D’s of Prevention” during your outdoor activities this holiday weekend:

  • Dusk/Dawn – Mosquitoes carrying WNV usually bite at dusk and dawn, so avoid or limit outdoor activity at these times.
  • Dress – Wear loose-fitting, long sleeved shirts and pants to reduce the amount of exposed skin.
  • DEET – Cover exposed skin with an insect repellent containing DEET, which is the most effective repellent against mosquito bites.
  • Drain - Empty any containers holding standing water because they are excellent breeding grounds for virus-carrying mosquitoes.
  • Doors – Make sure doors and windows are in good repair and fit tightly, and fix torn or damaged screens to keep mosquitoes out of the house.

Symptoms of WNV include headache, fever, neck discomfort, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash - that usually develop three to 15 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The elderly, those with compromised immune systems, or those with other underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for complications from the disease.

Anyone with questions about WNV or Zika should speak to their healthcare provider or call their local county health department, environmental health office.         

More information about mosquito-borne illnesses and mosquito repellents can be found by clicking mosquito-borne illness.